Technically not a bridge but rather a meadow, but it turns out the answer is yes. Today we went paragliding!
Paragliding happens all over Reunion, but the real hotspot is Saint Leu, with a landing zone right next to the Kelonia turtle sanctuary. Before the trip, we were debating between a helicopter tour and paragliding – the helicopter tour was a lot more expensive though, so we’d been leaning towards paragliding.
We started the day by driving to Saint Leu and hanging out on the public beach for a bit. We got to the meeting point around noon, then hung out for a bit before our guides (pilots?) picked us up and drove us in a van to the takeoff spot at around 800 meters of elevation. While we drove up, we chatted a bit – everyone here is shocked that we’re American, and absolutely delighted that Americans had heard about Reunion. Oh, and they’re (correctly) very nervous about Trump being reelected.
Everything moved really quickly once we got to the top, because there was rain coming. We don’t have any photos to share, because part of how the setup works is that they film you with a GoPro, and then you can buy the footage at the end. It was a very calm experience. We each had our own guide, flying tandem. At first you’re running down hill for a few feet, then floating and quickly gaining altitude. Because of the incoming rain, our glide was shorter than planned. Kat’s guide Pierre took her up a thermal to watch a male Reunion Harrier (a bird she was really interested in) so she ended up flying much higher than the rest of the group. Our flight was around 20 minutes, drifting back down to the beach, watching birds from above and getting a great view out to sea. We did a few big swooping turns to pump up the adrenaline, then landed very gently on the sand.
It was interesting because it felt like a zero adrenaline / zero fear kind of experience. Parachuting out of a plane is fundamentally similar, but I suppose the risk is distributed differently. With paragliding, an issue with your parachute will probably happen as you’re running down a grassy hill, rather than as you’re plummeting to the earth.
After our paragliding experience, we drove up the mountain a ways to the botanic garden and conservancy. After all our hiking, we wanted to learn a bit more about the plant-life on the island. Our guidebook had also mentioned a good restaurant at the site, so we were able to get lunch as well.
The botanic garden is on the site of a sugar cane and geranium plantation, and still features some of the historic structures. Our lunch was wonderful – fish, pork, many fried things, and a fancy banana dessert. All of the waitstaff were fantastic – like our paragliding guides, they were both shocked and excited to learn we were from America.
The gardens do a great job of telling the story of the flora of Reunion, including the native species, the species that were brought by settlers, and the invasive species. The bamboo forest was especially impressive, with the biggest bamboo we’ve ever seen. We happily wander the different areas until the gardens closed. Then it was back home to prep for tomorrow’s adventure.